What is your proposal personality?

Personality plays a large part in the unconscious decision that buyers make about whether proposals make it to the Maybe pile or the No pile. Bringing our real selves to proposals helps customers decide we are worth doing business with.

This week I met with a new client and we were talking about how they can improve their bid capability and success rates. One of the questions that came up was about presentation — what their proposals look like and the first impression that they make.

This organisation bids for business through competitive public tenders. In a competitive tender, presentation is important. It’s a crowded environment where a buyer will be assessing many tenders — sometimes a handful, and sometimes hundreds. Public tenders are a bit like a “cattle call” auditions in the entertainment business; show up on time, respect the judges, wear your biggest smile and most sparkly outfit. Sure, in a business environment, sequins may not really be appropriate, but quality presentation is still a sign of respect for the process.

Lately I've come to realise that there is another reason why we need to pay particular attention to presentation. Presentation equates to personality. When we are selling services, and our people are our prime saleable assets, we want to look and sound like people that the customer is going to want to work with. Make your proposals sound charismatic and enthusiastic, not professional and detached. Use photos of your own staff, not stock pictures. Make sure you can hear the voice of real people coming through in the way the proposal is written.